How to Check Someone Else’s Military Service Records

Updated: October 12, 2022
In this Article

    You can request official military personnel files for veterans and service members who have died. However, living veterans and service members must consent for you to check most documents in their service records.

    You can request some documents from a military member or veteran’s service record for eligibility, legal or financial transactions.

    FOIA and the Privacy Act

    To request any part of an official military personnel file, you’ll need to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis.

    The NPRC safeguards more than 70 million service records from the Department of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

    FOIA allows anyone with a statutory right to view executive branch information to request some service documents without consent from a veteran or next-of-kin.

    These documents include the veteran or service member’s:

    • Name
    • Past and present positions
    • Past and present titles
    • Past and present salaries
    • Past and present grades
    • Past and present job locations

    While FOIA provides transparency to the public, the Privacy Act protects service members’ information by limiting what’s accessible to the public.

    You can only access the following information without consent if the service member or veteran has died:

    • Name
    • Service Number
    • Dates of Service
    • Branch of Service
    • Final Duty Status
    • Final Rank
    • Salary
    • Assignments and Geographical Locations
    • Military Education Level
    • Commissioning source
    • List of awards and decorations
    • Photograph
    • Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials
    • Place of entrance and separation
    • Place of Birth
    • Date and geographical location of death
    • Place of burial

    Military separation documents (including DD-214s), replacement records and medical records are not open to the public.

    Obtaining Service Records using SF-180

    To request military personnel records, download an SF-180 form, fill it out and mail it back to the NPRC at:

    National Personnel Records Center
    1 Archives Drive
    St. Louis, Missouri 63138.

    You can also fax the form to the NPRC at (314) 801-9195.

    If you can’t download an SF-180, you can use this inquiry form to ask the NPRC to mail you an SF-180.

    If you are a dead veteran’s next-of-kin, you can fill out an SF-180 form or use an online order form to request the veteran’s separation documents, including a DD-214.

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    Use a FOIA Letter to Request Service Records

    If you can not obtain an SF-180, you can send a FOIA letter.

    Include as much information as possible to help the NPRC locate the service member’s file, including:

    • The veteran’s complete name used while in service
    • Service number, Social Security number or Department of Defense identification number
    • Branch of service
    • Dates of service
    • Date and place of birth

    Mail Your FOIA Letter to:

    National Personnel Records Center
    1 Archives Drive
    St. Louis, Missouri 63138

    Note: A fire destroyed many of the Army and Air Force’s 1947 to 1963 service records, according to the NPRC. If you are looking for personnel files between this year gap, provide as much information as possible so the records center can piece together what’s still available.

    National Archives Data

    The National Archives office, separate from the NPRC, holds military personnel files with final dates of service from at least 62 years ago.

    You can request National Archives records online or through the NPRC by mailing or faxing an SF-180 to the NPRC addresses above.

    About The Author

    Cristina Van Orden is a literary writer and active military spouse. She holds an MFA from Antioch University and taught K-12 English before working in editorial. Cristina currently resides on base with her husband and children.

    Written by Team